Volume 2022 Number 3
  • EISSN: 2223-506X


“Sidekick,” an original short fiction work, explores the concept of belonging through its two main characters, Birch and Aggie, who struggle to find social acceptance. The challenge for Birch is that he has paranoid schizophrenia. While he exhibits symptoms of delusions and experiences auditory complex perceptions, as do many with paranoid schizophrenia, unlike most, he also sees visual hallucinations. The general population might confuse his disability with dissociative identity disorder, or existing in multiple personality states. Instead, Birch seems cut off from reality, and while highly intelligent and educated, has been unable, especially in recent years, to maintain a successful life. The narrator, Aggie, is a retiree whose career was spent as an expatriate working with farming communities for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Cambodia. She has recently returned to her home in Virginia. Her perceptions and experience are partially based on research and my observations while visiting Cambodia and my conversations with NGO employees there. The greater portion, however, is informed by my observations and experiences over the last eighteen years as a member of the expatriate community in Doha, Qatar, one of the Gulf states. Usually, expatriates are motivated by imagining a better life abroad in status, salary, and/or in opportunities to make a meaningful contribution. Aggie’s desires fit within the third category, but as is common in the lives of expats, her dreams met with obstacles, which require adjustment if the expat is to remain abroad. Aggie was unable to find a way to adjust. However, upon her return, she has realized that her home is no longer familiar to her, and while she has never quite fit into the fashionable society of Richmond’s West End, her outsider status has become even more pronounced. Her first-person account relays her chance encounter at a café with the much younger Birch and the tentative attempts these two lonely people make in pursuing a possible platonic friendship.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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